Price comparison sites rife with errors on car insurance, says Which?

An investigation by Which? has revealed inconsistencies are rife across price comparison sites, with mismatching details found in six out of 10 of the policies listed.

The consumer champion looked at the policies offered on four of the biggest price comparison websites and can reveal a picture of inconsistencies and a lack of real choice that could be leaving consumers at risk of purchasing policies that simply don’t meet their needs.

With the Competition and Markets Authority finding that over four fifths (85%) of internet users have used price comparison sites, Which? is concerned that millions of consumers are not getting a clear picture from the websites they visit.

Which? cross-checked policy descriptions for 21 brands across four popular price comparison sites against the policy information provided on insurance brands’ own websites and in policy documents. And Which? found that for six in ten policies at least one detail published on the price comparison site was different to that posted in policy documents.

Looking into price comparison websites Which? found examples including:

  • Ten claims that a courtesy car is guaranteed should your car require repair, whereas the policy document made no such guarantee.
  • Claims about sunroof cover being included that weren’t reflected in actual policy wording.
  • Unreliable levels of cover for personal accident. In one case, for broker Autonet Plus, GoCompare described cover up to £5,000 for disability, but the limit in the policy document was only £2,500.
  • Incorrect information about cover for loss and theft of keys.

Investigating the choice on offer across price comparison sites, Which? discovered that in one scenario the top 30 results were being sold by as few as 12 providers. In some cases this was down to the same provider offering different levels of cover. However, in other cases it was trickier to spot that the choice on offer was more limited than it appeared.

Different insurance brands from the same parent company often featured with only a few pence separating them. For example Esure and Sheila’s Wheels – both part of Esure. And Admiral, Diamond and Elephant – all part of the Admiral group all appeared in close proximity on three sites with little to choose between them in terms of pricing. The same also applied to Axa and Swiftcover – both part of the Axa group.

In a number of instances, very similar Aviva and Axa policies appeared several times within the rankings, offered by different brokers. Looking at the full list of quotes supplied for one scenario, Which? discovered that the same Axa policy cropped up several times – with the only difference being the broker it was offered through. Across the four sites overall, the same Axa policy appeared eight times.

Although many policies appeared identical, there were clear differences in price. The biggest coming between apparently identical Aviva policies. Motor Quote Direct on Go Compare was £71 more expensive in a scenario featuring a London based driver, than the cheapest offer on Compare The Market (via broker Autonet) for what appeared to be the same policy.

Which? is encouraging people not to rely entirely on the policy details published on price comparison websites. Consumers are advised to make a list of the policy features that most matter to them, before checking the policy documents on the relevant provider’s website to ensure they get the right product.

Harry Rose, Which? Money Editor said:

“We were staggered to see such a high amount of errors across the policies listed on price comparison sites. Millions of consumers visit these websites, hoping to find all the information they need to make an informed decision in one place – yet our findings cast real doubt on their ability to do so.

“These sites should up their game to ensure customers know exactly what they’re purchasing and from whom, otherwise they might well end up with policies and contracts that simply don’t meet their needs.”

Notes to editors

In May and June 2018, we selected  21 comprehensive policies that frequently appear in comparison site rankings, and examined the details (excluding breakdown cover) published for each by four popular price comparison sites: GoCompare, Compare The Market, Confused and MoneySupermarket. We clicked through to each brand’s website and compared the policy information provided by these sites with the policy documents and other policy information on the brand websites. In July 2018, we ran a search for comprehensive car insurance on each  site for two scenarios – a driver in their 30s based in London and a driver in their 50s based in Cambridge – and analysed the range of policies and prices offered by each of the four comparison sites. We excluded telematics policies from our analysis. With these policies, your premium is adjusted over time based on your driving behaviour.

According to the Competition and Markets Authority over four fifths (85%) of internet users have used a price comparison site at least once. CMA survey – March 2017.

Rights of reply issued in response to the Which? Magazine article

Compare The Market said: “We work with our providers and check that the information provided is accurate. If  we discover any discrepancies, this is promptly addressed.”

GoCompare explained that it carries out: “A series of checks, including verification by our insurance partners. We rely on partners to keep us updated with any changes. We’ll be reviewing our processes to ensure the highest levels of accuracy.

MoneySupermarket said: “All the insurance providers we work with have to provide MoneySuperMarket with information on any changes to their level of cover. In addition, every car insurance brand that can quote on our site is audited on a regular basis. If we pick up any inaccuracies we then liaise with the insurance provider to clarify and resolve the issue to ensure there is no customer detriment.” said: “Insurance policy documents can be incredibly complex. We’re constantly reviewing how policy information is displayed to our customers and value the feedback you’ve provided.” added that in a different example to the Hastings one we raised with it, the insurer had confirmed that the information on was correct. We assume that the mismatch in the policy document was down to the insurer.

When we asked Motor Quote Direct why its policy was more expensive, it told us that potential reasons for price differences are virtually endless, including deals and concessions  with insurers. It added: “brokers may choose to negate some commission back into the retail price to promote new sales or they may decide to offer We found  different brands selling the same underlying policy at different prices discounted prices at certain times. With another quote scenario, we might appear in front of Autonet.”

Axa said: “While the net premium Axa provides for the core cover doesn’t change much between brokers, the overall customer price can change depending  on the broker’s business model. Add-ons, such as breakdown and legal cover, are generally provided by the broker. This, as well as broker’s commissions, will determine the overall price.”

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